On the 8th of July 2023, Superfine Africa Nuts Limited participated in a tree planting activity, at the invitation of CMA; a freight and logistics company that sought to partner with its clients in planting trees at Kiriita Forest (The Forest) in Lari. Two members of staff – Joel Mbiti and Amadi Mari-Djata-represented Superfine Africa Nuts Limited, on behalf of the Chief of Operations Mr. Alex Ndegwa.
The journey kicked off at around 8:30 AM even though the team had been assembling from 7:30 AM, on this chilly morning. CMA was generous enough to offer some coffee at their boardroom before departure. At this time, the convoy of three coasters pulled out of the Tulip House parking and embarked on the journey to the tree-planting destination.
As it was to be learned later, this tree planting is just a part of CMA’s bigger plan to significantly reduce its carbon print as it continues to strive to stay ahead of the global shipping and logistics business. In 2022, CMA ordered seven ships to serve the French West Indies. Of the seven, four are 7,300 TEU, while three are 7,900 TEU. This means they can carry 7,300 and 7,900 twenty-foot containers respectively. The most remarkable aspect of these ships is the fact that they are powered by biogas. This is a revolutionary move that is said to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 67%. The company is continually looking into ways it can bring these carbon dioxide levels further down.
A Section of the Participants Gets Ready to Move (Image By Amadi Kwaa Atsiaya)Biology teaches that most forms of life inhale oxygen but emit carbon dioxide on exhalation. However, trees are among those forms of life which need carbon dioxide at one time. The more trees we have, the more provision we have for a carbon sink, such that when the trees take in carbon dioxide during the light stage of what biologists call photosynthesis, a significant amount of the gas is sucked from the atmosphere, and that is very good for life on earth. An overconcentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse category gases gives rise to a number of problems. First is the rise in temperatures (a phenomenon known as global warming), and this causes a whole ripple effect that manifests in many aspects of life on the planet.
Tucked in their jackets, scarves, shawls, and other items to keep them warm, the determined tree planters took Nairobi’s Southern bypass, which eventually joined the main Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, taking a left turn at the junction to Kiriita Forest (aka. The Forest). This is a section of the larger Arbadare Forest, which is a public entity, under the Forestry Department, and inevitably, the Kenya Wildlife Service. Thus, it is an inter-jurisdictional public asset, overseen by both the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forestry Service. While the Forestry Service is for the protection of the flora in the forest, the Wildlife Service is concerned with the welfare of the fauna within this forest ecosystem.
Taking Direction From the Forest Guide (Image By Amadi Kwaa Atsiaya)According to the forest guide, the name Kiriita derives from the Gikuyu language and is closely associated with the Kenyan freedom struggle. During this time, the Aberdare forest was one of the most significant strongholds of the freedom fighters. This part of the forest was home to one of the Mau Mau camps, and that’s how it got named the warriors’ location.
After independence, the forest did not lose its importance. Even though there was no longer a need to provide shelter for the Mau Mau freedom heroes, the significance of the forest as a water catchment area cannot be gainsaid. It is due to the realization of the central position of the forest in supporting not only this particular ecosystem, but the macrocosm of Kenya and the region’s climatic stability that the government came up with arrangements to see the forest protected by the local community.
Apart from the impact that forest cover has on the general global climate, the forest is also a source of livelihood for the neighboring communities. The big question here is, how do we strike a balance between protecting the forest and having the surrounding communities use it to support their lives? It’s probable that this is a question that the government had asked itself concerning the need to preserve the forest, and at the same time have the forest generate income for the institutions that see to this.
To address the need for revenue, the government, many decades ago introduced exotic breeds of trees such as the pine, which is used in the manufacture of paper. The Abardares, in this way, became a forest where we have both indigenous and exotic trees. While the indigenous trees are not on the menu when logging, the exotic trees are periodically harvested on maturity. Since trees such as pine do not sprout after harvest, the patches where they are harvested remain open. These are the places where replanting takes place. Meanwhile, for the period of time the patches will not be overgrown, farmers from the surrounding communities are allowed to come in and cultivate these plots. They can grow their food, some of which is taken to the market.
The farmers’ crops and forest trees grow side by side. In the case of the exotic type trees, farmers take charge of pruning them in the patch where they are doing their farming, and they continue farming among these trees until a time when the trees naturally send them off because there comes a time when the pine leaves start dropping on the ground some toxins that are inimical to competition from other plants. The canopy also reaches such a density that causes so much darkness on the forest floor, making it impossible for any undergrowth to thrive. Even before the culmination of this scorched earth policy by the exotic trees, the farmers will have long read the writing on the wall and moved on to the next favorable area.
Whereas the farmers are allowed to harvest the crops they have planted, they are not allowed to harvest timber; save for the proceeds of tree pruning. For those who would have preferred to be given the license to hunt in the forest, they are not lucky. According to the forest guide, hunting in the forest is considered poaching, and it comes with heavy consequences. The responsibility to protect the animals that live in this forest is shared between the government and the local community. Members of the community will therefore readily report anyone they know of being culpable of poaching. Since the area chief is also a very active member of the forest protection apparatus, such reports are promptly acted upon, and the consequences are harsh.
The convoy of three main vehicles and many other private cars snaked through the forest pathway and had a stopover at the Forest Restaurant, where breakfast was served, and the itinerary of the day was shared with all in attendance. Continuing the journey to the spot where the vehicles would be left before beginning the nearly 45-minute trek to the spot where the tree planting was scheduled to take place, it was all mist and cold endurance.
Finally, the real test of tenacity came when the vehicles were to be inevitably abandoned, and the remainder of the journey covered on foot. Sukuma Wiki could be seen being transported by the sacksful, ready to hit the market.
In the forest, there are some open pastures, which appear to have been left unplanted with trees, for a particular purpose. There are a few sheep and donkeys grazing, and one is tempted to think that these areas were meant for grazing.
Some parts of the pathway were soggy, and the party had to tread carefully; those who were stronger and more stable, had to give a helping hand to those who could not pull certain acrobatics. Other stretches had a steep gradient that also had to be navigated with extra care.
A few parts of the forest area were covered in little plots of corn and vegetables; while others lay fallow; albeit showing signs of previous cultivation. Farmers could be seen tending their fields, and some even accompanied the visiting party, in order to take part in the tree planting event, which seemed a common activity they enjoy undertaking. The Forestry Department had already prepared the seedlings, which consisted of both indigenous and a few exotic breeds. The holes had also been dug in advance, ready for planting.
Each participant was encouraged to plant at least twenty seedlings, and at the end of the exercise, no seedling was left unplanted, in this patch that had food crops growing on it. Another cycle had been started, where a local farmer, or group of them had opened the ground, and planted some corn and vegetables, and after the seedlings had been introduced, these farmers would take care of both the food crops and the trees up to such a time when the farmer would give way to the trees.
Having accomplished their mission, the visiting tree planters washed their hands and started the hike back to where the vehicles had been parked. It was time to unwind and celebrate the big day, as they posed for photos in the forest.
The party landed again at the hotel in the forest, for a gourmet lunch, after which there were speeches from the organizers of this event, which was put in the wider global perspective of CMA making a significant contribution in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. A promise was made to have the group visit the forest again next year, to check on the progress of the young trees that were planted on this day. With that started the journey back to Nairobi, as the sun winked good evening, concealed behind the mist and clouds.
It is hoped that next year, as the party revisits the forest, the trees planted on this day shall have firmly sunk their tender roots, ready to soar and play their part in combating unchecked carbon dioxide emissions that could otherwise contribute to climate change and the outcomes of the latter.
Reported By Amadi Kwaa Atsiaya.